Picking Pastors, Presidents and Point Guards

Martin Luther famously said he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian. No worldviewist was Luther; he wanted certain skills more than a Christian confession. Today’s red-meat-politico-evangelicals dissent from the reformer, demanding testimony of at least some kind of Christian experience, preferably accompanied by the right worldview. We could call this “the most electable pious Christian” selection process.

In an attempt to discern the difference between Luther and Iowa evangelicals, it’s useful to compare how churches select pastors and how the NBA selects point guards. Bear with me now. When a church selects a pastor it is looking for a theological point of view, an exemplary character and a certain “skill set,” the latter consisting of things like preaching skills and pastoral skills. When a NBA team is looking for a point guard, it’s looking for a skill set while considering character only to the extent that bad character would be detrimental to the bottom line of wins and losses.

With Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson being their former favorites, Iowa’s politico-evangelicals are clearly looking for something more like a pastor.

But the next question is more difficult to unravel: why? There are several possibilities. It could be that they think there is linkage between Christian confession and job performance. Maybe they think a president should be a Christian role model for the good of our citizens. Maybe correct political decisions are supposed to flow out of worldview. Or, for the sake of completeness, maybe they think God will bless a country for having a godly leader. I really don’t know; please tell me if you do.

The alternative is to take the point guard approach, which takes us back to a skill set with just enough character to not hinder bottom-line performance. Taking this approach, we would look for a president with a certain knowledge base, savvy, the ability to persuade, well-calibrated rhetoric, leadership ability, electability, adherence to our system of government, a certain gravitas, etc.

The point guard approach is understandable; the pastor approach is a puzzle. As far as Christian confession, my pastor has a good one but I wouldn’t vote for him. As for being an ethical role model, didn’t we already do that with Jimmy Carter? Worldview, for all its hype, can’t tell us whether Iran should be allowed to have nuclear capabilities and it doesn’t tell us whether marriage should be addressed at a federal or state level. As for God blessing a country for having a godly leader, well, just ask Jeremiah how that worked out when righteous Josiah was king.

So if politico-evangelicals ran a NBA team, I guess Huckabee would be the point guard. As for me, I’m going with Rajon Rondo for president, if you know what I mean.

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8 Comments

Filed under Church and State, evangelical politics

8 responses to “Picking Pastors, Presidents and Point Guards

  1. dgh

    Good analogy. Could even work in Newt’s favor. Though if he’s going to play any hoops, he better drop several. Newt, have you heard of salads!

  2. Come on Darryl give Newt a break- you are speaking like a self-controlled Calvinist. Would you have asked Luther if he heard of salads? Luther might have gained all his weight by drinking too much of his wifes homemade beer. I’m kidding, mostly.

  3. MM, Luther actually said this: “If you have a choice between a Jew or a Turk who understands justice and a Christian who does not elect the Jew or Turk.” This was somehow lost in traslation to I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian. I heard Rod Rosenbladt correct someone who used that quote on a White Horse Inn broacast, if I remember correctly.

  4. You have excluded the third possibility. Many Christians believe that rulers must not only be just and wise, but they must first of all, be men who fear God. This certainly was not just for Israel. Psalm 2 was addressing kings of the world. They must kiss the Son, not the castoff nephew. Ultimately, a foolish Christian is an oxymoron, as is a wise Turk. God has certainly used a pagan or two to humble his people, but they themselves could not in good conscience appoint these leaders.

    The problem with the basketball analogy is that the goal of the Christian is to do what is right, not win.

    Would you rather have your daughter marry the Turk or the foolish acting Christian? I take the latter in a heartbeat. (With the caveat that this professing Christian must be a member of a church that could discipline the foolishness and rule that their profession is credible, if the foolishness is habitual and accompanied by a refusal to repent)

    Just in case it is missed, I believe in Luther’s day a Turk was synonymous with a Muslim, just so there is no confusion. I think Luther was wrong on this point.

    • Ultimately, a foolish Christian is an oxymoron

      David, what about the skill of statecraft? Or a foreign policy knowledge base? Is there something about being a Christian that makes those better? If so, then any Christian including you or I would be a better President than Mitt Romney, but I wouldn’t vote for me or you over Mitt.

      Would you rather have your daughter marry the Turk or the foolish acting Christian?

      Let’s not confuse the family and the state.

      • “David, what about the skill of statecraft? Or a foreign policy knowledge base? Is there something about being a Christian that makes those better?”

        Yes, the wisdom of God. Of course, God uses means to accomplish his will; but there is no means more effective than the blessing of God. I must hasten to add here, that I am referring to the blessing of God on His people, not the nation – for which we have no promise in Scripture. Calvin wrote of leaders, commenting on “He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21):

        “We naturally fancy that they acquire their power by their own talents, or by hereditary right, or by fortuitous accident. Meanwhile all thought of God is excluded, when the industry, or valor, or success, or any other quality of man is extolled! Hence it is said in the Psalms, neither from the east nor the west, but God alone is the judge (Psalm 75:6, 7). The Prophet there derides the discourses of those who call themselves Wise, and who gather up reasons from all sides to show how power is assigned to man, by either his own counsel and valor, or by good fortune or other human and inferior instruments. Look round, says he, wherever you please, from the rising to the setting of the sun, and you will find no reason why one man becomes lord of his fellow-creatures rather than another.”

        God has not required that our choice of banker or barber be a man who fears God, so I can certainly go to a Mormon or pagan mechanic. But civil leaders must be those who fear God. Yes, I’d vote for you over Romney.

      • Yes, I’d vote for you over Romney.

        If I was on the ballot against Romney, I’d actively campaign for Romney.

        Yes, the wisdom of God. Of course, God uses means to accomplish his will; but there is no means more effective than the blessing of God. I must hasten to add here, that I am referring to the blessing of God on His people, not the nation –

        By definition, any Christian has a certain degree of spiritual wisdom, i.e., the fear of the Lord, but in most of our life under the sun the Christian can be as foolish as anyone. And we often are.
        It appears that you are using the Calvin quote to nullify consideration of means by the sovereignty of God. But you prove too much, because if that’s where you’re going then your vote for a Christian doesn’t mean much either.
        I guess I’ll put you down as a vote for “God will bless Christians if they elect a Christian President.”

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